If any of you are avid readers of the Washington Post editorial pages, then lately you might have noticed some climate change-related hating. There was of course the well-documented brouhaha back in February surrounding George Will’s spurious climate change articles and the Post’s editorial board refusing to do anything about his painfully incorrect assertions. Accusations and double talk bandied about, arguments were made, a good time was had by all.
This week, Post columnist Robert Samuelson decided to get in on the act as well. His column doesn’t do anything as egregious as question whether global warming is real or not. Instead, he goes after environmental groups that are trying to convince the public that climate change legislation will cost almost nothing. Why is this bad? Because according to him:
The claims of the Environmental Defense Fund and other environmentalists that this reduction can occur cheaply rely on economic simulations by “general equilibrium” models…The trouble is that these models embody wildly unrealistic assumptions: There are no business cycles; the economy is always at “full employment”; strong growth is assumed, based on past growth rates; the economy automatically accommodates major changes — if fossil fuel prices rise (as they would under anti-global-warming laws), consumers quickly use less and new supplies of “clean energy” magically materialize.
So, either climate change doesn’t exist or it’s a great way for those evil enviro-types to lie to us all with their voodoo economics models, according to the WaPo editorial stable. Samuelson’s claims don’t hold up much better than Will’s, though. Just like Will got pummeled by the blogosphere, Paul Krugman rides into the picture to lay an editorial pimp-slap on Samuelson, saying:
I don’t think there’s a single thing there that’s right. What on earth do business cycles have to do with it? The models may assume growth based on past trends, but they DO ask whether emissions policy would greatly slow growth — and the answer is no. Consumers aren’t assumed to “quickly” use less — the time frame in these models is decades long. And new supplies don’t “magically” appear — they respond to price incentives, which is what economics usually says…this column exemplifies a strange thing about the climate change debate. Opponents of a policy change generally believe that market economies are wonderful things, able to adapt to just about anything — anything, that is, except a government policy that puts a price on greenhouse gas emissions.
Well said, Dr. Krugman. Needless to say, if you are looking for a well thought-out and robust discussion about the pros and cons of climate change legislation, perhaps it would be wise to steer clear of the Washington Post.